Mask mandates lift as counties everywhere move to green, concerts and sporting events return to full capacity and coworkers reunite at the office while the world breathes a sigh of relief as we put the brunt of COVID-19 behind us. Not so fast, the CDC warned, as skepticism surrounding monkeypox began to emerge almost simultaneously earlier this summer.
Progression of the ‘Pox
Lillian Posner of Think Global Health recounts that the first patient of the outbreak was treated on May 7 in the United Kingdom following a trip to Nigeria, where monkeypox is considered endemic—native to the area making transmission low and immunity high. May witnessed a slow climb of cases, as the disease made its way around the globe. World leaders remained hopeful as June approached, learning more about the virus and preparing vaccines.
When cases spiked in June, it became evident monkeypox disproportionally affects members of the LGBTQIA+ community, specifically men who have sex with men (MSM), so along with healthcare workers, they became first priority in vaccine distribution. As July progressed, cases continued to arise in new locations and multiplied in densely populated areas forcing the World Health Organization (WHO), who initially believed the outbreak could be contained, to deem it a global health emergency. Many nations followed suit as the death toll rose, including the United States who records more cases than any other nation.
As pressure increased, the United States’ FDA came out with a ‘dose-spreading’ strategy to combat vaccine shortages and supply chain issues in which vaccines would be split up to reach more people, however this was met with much criticism and lacks WHO approval. Reservations aside, other groups such as the European Medicines Agency (EMA) are currently attempting to adopt this method as well.
What This Means for LGBTQIA+ Communities
It remains unclear why monkeypox has been affecting MSM individuals more so than other demographics, however it should be noted that it is far from limited to these groups. In countries where monkeypox is considered endemic, there is no evidence of such a connection. Sean Cahill of the Fenway Institute believes this disproportionality is the effect of a few close-contact raves attended primarily by LGBTQIA+ men, which has exacerbated the spread in those communities. Because of this correlation, members of these circles have been under intense scrutiny and have asked for more protection and support throughout this time.
Whether you are apart of these communities or not, it is important to remember this virus spreads through close contact, especially of a sexual nature, so being more mindful of crowded settings and new sexual partners is universally integral in slowing the spread.
Where Are We Now
Presently, the rise of cases appears to be slowing and both the CDC and WHO remain optimistic and assert a monkeypox pandemic nor quarantine are on the way. This decline is likely due to swift measures with vaccination, education efforts and testing availability.
However, as children head back to school, there has been a rise of cases within the younger demographic whom were previously deemed low risk. This is due to increased contact between students and contamination of high-touch surfaces in schools and after-school activities. On August 9, the FDA approved Jynneos, the immunization currently being used to combat monkeypox, for those under 18 but it is so recent many children remain unprotected.
Experts hang in the air regarding the downtrend of cases, which is why the National Education Association (NEA) suggests it is vital to stay vigilant in washing your hands after touching high-contact surfaces, avoiding close skin-to-skin contact and keeping updated on cases spiking in your locality.